Xavier Miserachs (Barcelona, 1937-1998) decided to drop out of medical school and devote himself to photography when he discovered the great urban documentary photographer William Klein and his work on New York. When the art critic Josep M. Casademont saw an exhibition of photographs by Miserachs, Ricard Terré and Ramón Masats at the Agrupació Fotogràfica de Catalunya in Barcelona in 1957, he described the work as being the “new avant-garde”. The label stuck, and from then on it was used to describe a new generation of photographers who radically transformed documentary photography in Francoist Spain.
Xavier Miserachs played a prominent role in this transformation, along with his lifelong friend Oriol Maspons, a fellow photographer who shared many of his professional interests.
Some of Miserach’s most significant works include the photographs that ended up being published in books on Barcelona and the Costa Brava in the early sixties: Barcelona. Blanco y negro (Aymà, 1964) and Costa Brava Show (Kairós, 1966). Both of these were instrumental in documenting the early years of the new consumer culture, incipient mass tourism and the flow of the working classes to the new urban environment.
Xavier Miserachs’s photographs show the world through an anthropologist’s eyes: he is interested in the city and its streets, in immigration and the beginning of cultural fusions, in the workers’ movement and in the urban growth on the outskirts of cities. Josep M. Espinàs once described the Barcelona that Miserachs captured as the city of “Weiner schnitzel for 10 pesetas” and “dresses paid in weekly instalments of 25 pesetas”. Taking inspiration from the work of William Klein and Francesc Català-Roca, Miserachs documented day-to-day life in the city’s emblematic neighbourhoods such as Gràcia, Sants, el Born and Barceloneta. He captured families strolling, popular fiestas, kids on the streets, flea markets, workers leaving factories and the luggage of migrants at the train station, as well as well-known figures of the time.
The historical photographs acquired by the Museum have been supplemented by an archive of eighty thousand images taken by the photographer, which have been deposited at the MACBA Study Centre by the Miserachs family for cataloguing, conservation and dissemination. This collection of negatives, slides, contact sheets and notebooks spanning forty-four years from 1954 to 1998, includes some of the most significant works by one of Catalonia’s great masters of photography.
The objects are intended to have the objective character of industrial products. They are not intended to represent anything other than what they are. The previous categorization of the arts no longer exists.